And a third modernist home – The Abrahams House on Beach Road, Beaumaris – is also in jeopardy, with an application to build townhouses on the site before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Beaumaris Modern president Fiona Austin said the houses would have been protected if Bayside Council had not abandoned heritage studies in 2008 and 2018.
“This week in Bayside has been devastating for our architectural heritage,” Ms Austin said.
Heritage studies would have identified the best examples of the mid-century period, with a planning scheme amendment prepared to permanently protect them. This approach is taken by almost all other councils.
However, the council abandoned the heritage study in 2018 after some residents hit out when told their homes would be put on an interim heritage overlay until the study was completed.
“As soon as the letters were put in letterboxes, all hell broke loose,” Bayside mayor Clarke Martin told The Age. “It descended into a horrible situation, where people were literally yelling at each other in the streets.”
Cr Martin said some home owners feared the interim heritage overlay would make renovating difficult, drive down property values and mean they couldn’t sell their homes.
“What underlined the whole thing was the view that it is your castle, you should be able to do with it what you like.”
Cr Martin said the process was so divisive the council paused the heritage study and instead invited property owners to nominate their homes for heritage protection on a voluntary register.
He said the voluntary process had identified 11 private homes and 14 council properties in Beaumaris, which the council had submitted to Mr Wynne for approval.
He said once these were given protection, the council would restart the heritage study.
However, the National Trust said it was aware of more than 100 places of heritage significance in the City of Bayside that remained unprotected and were at risk.
“Mid century homes are an important part of our history and utilised groundbreaking construction methods, innovative approaches to open-plan living and connections to the landscape,” said Mr Ambrose.
“The Bayside area in particular was a hotbed of architectural expression and experimentation and has one of the best collections of post-war architecture in Victoria, if not Australia.”
The National Trust and Beaumaris Modern have written to the Planning Minister urging him to intervene to protect heritage in Bayside.
Mr Ambrose said he requested that Mr Wynne use his ministerial powers to apply interim heritage overlays to places identified in previous heritage studies.
He said this would be done with a view to pursuing permanent protection through a planning scheme amendment. “[This] allows everyone – including home owners – to have a say.”
Mr Wynne said councils were responsible for protecting their local heritage and this was yet another example of their failure to do so.
“If the council considered these houses to be of local significance, they had the means to protect them and the demolition permits should never have been issued,” he said.
Jewel Topsfield is Melbourne Editor of The Age.